With the U.K. Government poised to approve millions of pounds’ worth of new offshore wind developments, the U.K. Chamber of Shipping has warned that coordination and forward planning is necessary to ensure new windfarms do not endanger vessels, lives or the environment.
The Government has announced a new round of contracts for May 2019 and intends to run subsequent auctions every two years after that. At the same time, eight applications have been received to extend existing windfarms. Such developments could potentially see 1-2GW of new offshore wind capacity (between 60 and 140 turbines) every year during the 2020s.
The Chamber says it fully supports offshore wind as a means to decarbonize the U.K.’s energy mix but caution is needed. “Our paramount concerns are the preservation of navigational safety for shipping and mariners, and minimizing the additional emissions and fuel costs caused by vessels deviating around windfarms,” says Robert Merrylees, Policy Manager & Analyst at the U.K. Chamber of Shipping. “When new windfarms are constructed or extended, vessels on established routes may have to navigate around them. This can cause ships to be funneled into narrower channels, which can increase the risk of collision, particularly in poor conditions or when accounting for weather routing.”
“Smaller vessels can be especially affected when their preferred route is blocked by windfarm developments,” he says. Various U.K. Chamber members operating smaller vessels on coastal routes have expressed concern that their ships may be forced to use deep-water routes that were previously used only by larger vessels, which would create unnecessary congestion and vessel density.
“Were an accident to happen, we also have concerns that offshore turbines may hamper the ability of search and rescue teams to access the area,” says Merrylees.
The shipping industry is making a concerted effort to minimize its carbon footprint, but these efforts could be compromised if vessels have to re-route and spend more time at sea.
“To mitigate these risks to safety and the environment, we are calling for thorough and careful consultation and open, transparent planning of any new windfarm site,” says Merrylees. “For brand-new developments, there needs to be a comprehensive overview of where the sites are located and how they will change the flow of vessel traffic through an area. For extensions to existing offshore windfarms, we’re calling for careful due diligence to be conducted to ensure that navigational safety is preserved.”
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